Spanning the racial divide with authentic love.
The news of this past week has left my mind spinning, my insides churning, and my spirit grieved.
News of two African American men shot on video by the police as a first response rather than an absolute last resort, and then news of five officers shot down by snipers in retaliation has left me heart sick. These men, all made in the image of God, are now gone, their names now reduced to hashtags and public comment and the careless words of the passing scene.
How do you respond when people are killing other people and the racial divide seems to be wider and deeper and more sensitive than we’ve seen for a very long time in this country? What can we do about this problem? Is it even solvable? How much do we tell our kids?
I’m going to share a few disjointed thoughts. Please give me grace as I speak from my own experience, with no pretense of being an expert of any sort on this subject.
On Comforting the Mourning.
When heartache comes to any people, I believe we should reach out to them. We should grieve with those who grieve. I believe we’ve failed at this when we wait to see if they “deserved” it or not.
One night I was at the Jordan Hospital, visiting a family member who had been brought to the ER. I was waiting outside after a very long night, and I saw a woman stumble into the parking lot, sobbing, crying, “He’s gone! He’s gone. I can’t believe he’s gone.”
I ran over to put my arm around her and offer her any kind of comfort I could, and to guide her out of the middle of the road where she was about to collapse, and through whispers of several other people nearby, I learned that she was weeping over someone who had died young by overdosing on heroin.
Even though drugs was the cause of the death, and some would say that he basically did it to himself, this woman was really still grieving and the Christian thing to do at that moment was to comfort. This woman will hear the “facts” for the rest of her life. Heroin killed that person. He did it to himself. The junkie got what he deserved. I’m sure she’ll hear it all. But regardless of the facts, this fallen world hurts, and loss and grief need to be acknowledged and comforted and wept over.
In talking to my AA friends who are also believers in Jesus Christ, they say that the white community has not been there for them in their sorrow. That our silence reads as unconcern and indifference.
You cannot comfort someone who believes you don’t even notice enough to comment, can you? I see this as a problem because all Christians should be known by their love as THE distinguishing mark of a believer.
I know white people who don’t speak out because it seems like whatever language they’ve tried in the past, it’s somehow given offence to their black brothers and sisters. We don’t want to offend, so we stop talking all together. But I’ve learned that this is not the right response.
This week, in the wake of such horrible events, I texted several AA friends, to let them know that I love them. I talked to our dear friend, an AA police officer, to let him know that I am concerned for his safety and to hear his thoughts. These are people I dearly love, who we “do life” with, worship with, and whose kids sleep at our house and vice versa.
The Influence of Faith During Trials
I have personally been encouraged and strengthened by watching my AA brothers and sisters in Christ react to this heartache. Isn’t it true that during times of trial and tribulation, persecution and grief, that God’s glory shines brightest in a people who are praising him through grief-stricken hearts?
On Sunday morning at our church, my heart pretty much melted inside me as I listened to one of our AA deacons who I love and respect so much, open the service in prayer and pray for our country and for the heartaches of this “standing congregation.” Mr. Green always praises God for answering the prayers of the saints and being near in times of trial, and calling us to draw closer to the God who gives breath, and knows every individual need and heartache. He always talks in terms of “us” because he understands that there is no Greek, or Jew or any distinction. He exudes faith and trust and hope, and I am instructed and strengthened every time he prays.
I’ve also appreciated the openness of many of my AA friends who are also bloggers and writers and pastor’s wives, who’ve encouraged dialogue and allowed hard questions to be asked without taking any offence. I’ve learned by watching their holy example.
What Can Be Done?
I’ve seen a lot of people on FB and social media asking what can be done? Where do you even start?
I’ve been praying about this all week. Of course, we want the Holy Spirit to lead in all that we say and do, so that’s where we need to start.
As you pray for guidance and a tender heart, I truly believe the Holy Spirit will guide you into the right course of action. Your assignment may be different from mine on a practical level, but the big picture will be the same: bring glory to God by loving all people well.
Here are a few of my “answers” after much prayer this week:
I’m praying that God would open my eyes to people who are overlooked, hurting, or disenfranchised–black or white.
I’m going to speak up and affirm those I love, rather than assuming that people know I care.
I’m starting with the people who God puts me into direct contact with physically/location-wise. I am more responsible to God for the people He providentially puts into my path today, than to those I’ve never met.
I’m talking to my kids about loving others well. I am responsible before God to train my kids to love others well, do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. You are responsible for your closest sphere of influence as well.
I’m listening to learn. We all have preconceived ideas and prejudices, don’t we, whether black or white? We all see life through our own lens. Listening and considering another person’s experience and point of view is how we build bridges instead of building walls.
I’m praying that we would all respond righteously as we are each responsible for our own actions and reactions.
I’m praying that we’ll be quick to share the gospel of reconciliation. We know that there will never be peace on earth as long as sin reigns. This makes us long for heaven when all injustice will end and wrongs will be made right. People need the Lord.
We know that the behavior of the world is not necessarily the behavior of the saints. The church should be a little taste of heaven here on Earth with the unity of the saints a picture of what is to come. I’m praying that the church would love more and more and that we’d be the unified bride of Christ.
“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”